BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Tuesday, March 12, 2013) - Let the competition for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship begin.
The first day of a two-day IZOD IndyCar Series Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park produced:
• Twenty-five drivers who were quicker than Will Power's official record on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course.
• Eight different teams represented in the top 10.
• Nineteen of the 26 drivers within 1 second of the leader.
• Six Chevrolet and four Honda teams in the top 10.
I never felt quicker in this car.
Will Power set the record of 1 minute, 9.8529 seconds in Round 1 of qualifications last April. Driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, he was quickest in the chilly morning session with a lap of 1:08.4984 and lowered it to 1:07.8625 in the afternoon -- 2 seconds quicker than his record.
Teammate Helio Castroneves was second (1:07.9388) in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske car, while James Hinchcliffe was third (1:07.9869) in the No. 27 GoDaddy.com car for Andretti Autosport.
"When the offseason is so long, our speed bottles up," Hinchcliffe joked.
Power, the defending race winner at Barber, won three of the initial four races in the 2012 and entered the season finale as one of two drivers contending for the series title. He's looking for another quick start -- and his first championship.
"The car is incredibly hooked up here," he said. "I never felt quicker in this car. It's good to have Penske 1-2; it's only the first day of testing but it shows we've worked hard in the winter and I think as a team we're determined to kick a couple of boxes this year. The Indy 500 and the championship are at the top of the list. I've let it go too many times."
Recent surface grinding combined with a new compound for the Firestone primary tires developed for the track and cool temperatures helping the turbo-charged engines were contributing factors. All teams are using the slicks for the test, with alternate tires that trade off even more grip for fewer laps for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 5-7.
"It runs like a diamond-bladed polisher horizontal with the surface of the racetrack and takes the aggregate back down to the base," track manager Mark Whitt said of the surface grinding process. "We've been running 10 years so the aggregate gets exposed. We ground the aggregate to get it back down to the base, which makes a smoother surface but more grippy surface."
The process will prolong the life of the course, which is in use more than 220 days a year. Porsche driving school events and motorcycle and car club weekends followed the project before the IZOD IndyCar Series test.
The March 13 sessions have been revised because of the potential of inclement weather to 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 1:45-6 p.m. (ET).
A.J. ALLMENDINGER (No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet): "Today was another positive step in the learning process and I thought the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet showed some good speed. We need as many laps as we can get but my teammates are being great about sharing information to accelerate the learning curve and I am excited to see what we can get done tomorrow."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet): "Wow it was fun to get back out there today in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. The car was really fast and P2 today shows all the hard work the Team Penske and Chevrolet guys have put in over the offseason. The grip was incredible and the close times today show how competitive the racing will be this year. Hopefully tomorrow is another good day so we can keep getting ready for St. Pete."
E.J. VISO (No. 5 Team Venezuela/Andretti Autosport/HVM Chevrolet): "I'm extremely happy to be with Andretti Autosport. The setup that we used was very refreshing and it's nice to start the season with all good things. I'm looking forward to having a great season, and thanks to all my sponsors for the support."
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 6 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "It was a very interesting day for us as we continued to try different things from the last couple of tests. Our main goal was to get me connected with the team, my new engineer and for my team to get to know my driving style, and I think from that aspect it was a very successful day. We were not satisfied with the times, but we were also on a different plan than others and I am looking forward to tomorrow as we have a lot of space for improvement. I am very satisfied with my crew and how we are getting to know each other like a family."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "Today wasn't the best day as we had some issues with the car causing us to not have much time on track. We've got work to do, some new things to try, and some ground to make. Tomorrow we are going to restrict our running time as we do not want to put too many miles on this engine, but we still look to accomplish a lot more than we did today."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "It's good to finally be back on track. We had a lot of down time today sorting out a couple of things in the No. 11 KV Racing car and did not put in the amount of laps that we were anticipating, but we still had a productive day. I'm looking forward to tomorrow to get more laps in the car. St. Pete can't come soon enough."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "I've never felt so much grip in this car. Penske 1-2, it's only the first day of testing, but that shows that we worked hard in the winter. As a team we're very determined to kick a couple of boxes this year. The Indy 500 and the championship are absolutely top of the list. It's important to test here to race here. It's not really relevant anywhere else because it's a pretty unique track. We'll get as much as we can out of testing here and when we go to St. Pete it's very different. Very different track, very bumpy and different tires. We've got to prepare for that, too. We expect to get be fighting for the first few races for sure. (About why the times were so fast today): "The work that was done during the year last year and also engine work with the engine manufacturers, and it's a little cooler, which helps turbo and it helps grip. It's just a very fast situation."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "We had quite a few problems to deal with today but we worked through them. The track is a lot faster than last year so we had to explore some new setups. We made some progress but not as much as we planned. Hopefully tomorrow will go smoother."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda): "Today was about getting comfortable in a car, working with the guys and seeing how they work and getting myself dialed in for Long Beach. I think we got through a lot of stuff, and hopefully helped the guys out for tomorrow. James (Jakes) will be in the car and hopefully he'll like some of the things we got through today and be quick out of the box. Productive day and I think Graham and I got through quite a bit of work, so when the team comes back for the race weekend they will be strong."
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "It was good to be back in the car. I'd like to thank Dale (Coyne) for the opportunity. Unfortunately, we had some mechanical problems, so I didn't get to run as much as I'd like to. I wish I had more time, but it was a good to get back in a car."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "We went through a few things. We didn't end up as quick as we'd like. We did a change mid-afternoon, and it seems like it was the wrong way. I'm glad we did it to try to understand it, but the lap time wasn't there. Lots of data to go through tonight and try to understand it all and we'll have another go tomorrow." (About testing alongside his younger brother Stefan on March 13): "We did a go-kart event where we spent about five minutes on the track at the same time. That's it. I'm looking forward to it. It will fun seeing him out there. There's lots to do. We have a lot work to do. It's going to be a steep learning curve from him. But we'll push on and see how it goes."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "I was pleased with how we started out today. We made some good gains at the test at Sonoma last week. So we are ahead of our setup from last year here. We made good adjustments through the lunch hour. But we hit a bit of a wall in the afternoon. What is good about our team now is that we know the direction we are headed. That wasn't the case last year. We were still learning some much about the team and the car in the first year. Overall, I think we have now found a good start for Wednesday's testing. Being a one-car team, we are really trying to find things on our own. So the learning process is a little slower for us than the multi-car teams. But I am pleased where we are headed right now."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): "It's really not a bad start. We had a strong GoDaddy.com car here last year and we knew what to show up with for the most part. Today was a lot of working through a lot of the things the engineers dreamed up during the offseason. Some were good and some were bad, but ultimately, it was good to end up in the top three. There's still some time to find in all the Andretti Autosport cars, and hopefully, we can go challenge those Penske cars tomorrow."
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "It's was good. We didn't run too much in the afternoon because we had a few things to do on the car that took some time. It was good to get on another track with lots of high-speed corners. We did some good times on older tires. I didn't make the most of new tires, but it's part of learning."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Areva KVRT Chevrolet): "I think it was a good day. We lost a little bit of time so we didn't get to run that much. But I feel like every time we were on the track we made improvements and that's what counts. I think we can be pretty happy with the day and hopefully we can even make a step more forward tomorrow."
The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season opens with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg March 24 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.